Friday, January 29, 2010

Bubo Virginianus
Great Horned Owl

Last night we were awakened by owls calling back and forth. The dogs barked, the guineas squawked from inside the chicken house, but the rooster did not say a word. After 30 minutes or so, the dogs and guineas settled down, and we went back to sleep.

The owls were still calling this morning, and after Ken went to work, I finally saw one of them . . . and then two more.

It's gray and cold today, the trees are black against the gray white of the snow and sky, and the wind is still. Hoo, hoo-oo, hoo hoo: the music of this morning continues as I type.

When I saw him, the owl was perched in a tall honey locust just north of the chicken house, leaning forward and shifting his tail and wings every time he called. The white feathers at his throat puffed out with each hoot. He flew closer to the house and swooped upward to perch at the very tip top of the spruce that's four feet from the north wall of the chicken house. "His" attention was focused to the south, and he continued to hoot every minute or so. I shifted my binoculars to follow his gaze and saw a second owl sitting halfway up an osage orange on the south edge of the clearing, calling back to him. And then behind "her," hitherto unseen, another owl took off and flew south into the forest.

I watched for several minutes, and then the crows moved in and mobbed the first owl until he took refuge in the pines north of the house. The cawing crows followed him and continued harassing him. I looked to the south, and the second owl had moved. She continued to return his calls, but I could not locate her.

I can still hear him nearby, late in the morning, hooting and pining, dodging crows, and hoping for a mate.

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